Monday, January 18, 2021


Matthew Barney’s Redoubt reminds me of a quote from the documentary; Pretty As A Picture: The Art Of David Lynch where Jennifer Lynch describes her father’s process and work mentality...

For him the doing is the joy. Sure, the product is important but he's very inspiring to me because the act of creating is what he so cherishes. And I think that that makes everything and every day more important - Jennifer Lynch

Pretty As A Picture: The Art Of David Lynch

I’m not going to call Matthew Barney’s art “Lynchian” just because both he and David Lynch’s work could be described as “weird” or experimental (David Lynch did not invent “weird” or “experimental”), but they do approach their work in a similar hands-on/physical fashion. David Lynch is getting up there in age now but a lot of his older film work required him to get his hands dirty. You can call Lynch weird and/or artsy all you want but he knows just as much about power tools as the average “manly man”. Rarely do you find David Lynch mentioned alongside the likes of a Bob Villa, but he is a tool enthusiast. I know I’m being stereotypical with gender roles but it’s the only way I know how to get my point across. And David Lynch does come from that old school Norman Rockwell era of Americana. It’s quietly emphasized in a lot of his work.

Not only did Lynch build some of the furniture in his films by hand, but the clanking metal noises and droning factory sounds that provide the sonic backdrop for half of his movies gives his cinematic universe an industrial feel...

Twin Peaks


Blue Velvet

David Lynch also doesn’t like to discuss what his movies are “about”. I’ve witnessed him firsthand be evasive towards questions about the plots to his movies at many Q&As. He’d rather talk about the camera he used to shoot certain scenes in Inland Empire or the experiments he did with plaster to create the early prosthetics for the Elephant Man costumes.

The same could be said about Matthew Barney. Often times when asked what his films are “about” he gives a very basic & vague answer yet will talk forever about the specific brand of jelly he used coat one of his sculptures or set pieces. Like David Lynch, you can label Barney’s work as silly artsy shit, but Matthew Barney knows his way around a circular saw and could probably dominate the average human being in most physical activities.

While Redoubt is incredibly abstract and can be interpreted in many different ways (there’s really no “wrong” or "right" way to view, write about or critique this film), at the end of the day it’s about the creative process. The creative process of what? The creative process is a broad, vast and vague term. There’s a creative process to just about anything and Redoubt explores that. The film, which doesn’t feature much direct dialogue, shows everyone from interpretive dancers & experimental multi-media artists, to marksmen & hikers/outdoor survivalists. There’s a creative process to all of those things.
The beauty of the creative process doesn’t just apply to "arts" (and perhaps what the average person considers to be an "art" is limited). It all comes down to working out ideas and the reward that can come with it even if you don’t reach a final concrete answer. Remember in school when you’re teacher would emphasize showing your work on a science or math test? You might not get to the final or correct answer but, depending on the teacher, you’d still get a couple of points on the test just for showing your work.

Who better to show all this than someone like Matthew Barney? He has direct hands-on experience in many different arts as he’s an experimental sculptor, a visual/multi-media artist and an athlete to a lesser extent (a lot of his art puts him in very physically demanding/competitive scenarios like dancing, running, hiking and even wall climbing...

Matthew Barney climbing the Guggenheim in The Order

Matthew Barney working on an installation 

It makes sense that I’m drawn to the scenes in Ernest Dickerson's Juice of Q trying out scratches in his bedroom, or, and I know this sounds a bit problematic, but the parts in Taxi Driver where Travis is making gun sleeves and hollow point bullets. I’m fascinated by the creative process because I’m so familiar with it. I’ve spent a good portion of my life inside studios so Redoubt hit me on a personal level. In jr high & high school I had a multiple electives that kept me in the autocad studio printing out drawings. In college I spent five years in a studio making abstract models. And between my late teens through my mid-30s I spent a lot of time in music studios recording scratches.
From blueprints & exacto knives to records & analog music equipment - I love messy creative spaces with shit all over the place. That’s my environment. That’s also an environment that Matthew Barney shows in Redoubt. In the film it isn’t so much about the final product that the various characters get to. It’s about the doing
There isn’t a traditional plot to Redoubt which shouldn’t come as a surprise to those familiar with Matthew Barney films. I imagine anyone who clicked on this link is already familiar with his movies. Matthew Barney isn’t the kind filmmaker that you just stumble upon. He’s someone specific that has to be on your radar.

In Redoubt we see beautifully banal scenes of nameless marksmen setting up their rifle stands and looking through their scopes for minutes at a time. Other filmmakers would focus on the person or thing getting shot or the quick mini explosion that comes along with pulling a trigger. With Redoubt, Matthew Barney makes shooting a gun less titillating and/or exciting/“sexy” and more artistic in a mechanical sense.

Throughout the film there’s an interpretive dancer who appears at random moments working out and experimenting with physical movements rather than performing a complete dance routine.

Matthew Barney appears in the film as a fictionalized version of himself as an experimental artist working out ideas in his studio.

All of these aspects drove home the idea that Redoubt is ultimately about the creative process and the beauty of it all. 
Given the many layers to Barney’s work I’m sure there’s more to Redoubt (like his other work, this film is part of a larger multi-part/multi-media art piece), but as a somewhat/sometimes creative person, the doing within the film is what stood out to me the most (perhaps I’ll need to rewatch Redoubt a few more times to catch some of the other layers).


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